FLA must be abandoned
The Fair Labor Association is an organization that was created to uphold moral justice, but has unfortunately taken a turn toward corruption. The group was founded in 1999 in response to a boom of the awareness of sweatshops and the conditions they placed their workers in. This included low wages, sexual harassment, working long hours and unpaid forced overtime. Worst of all, though, was the fact that these sweatshop operations were created in order to manufacture the University apparel that adorns the fans in our stadium on game days and the students who occupy the libraries during exam week. Workers made efforts to attain unions that would help their cause — when they did, however, they were met with violent harassment and firings. The FLA was the answer to the heinous crimes committed toward these people — they were supposed to be the voice for those who were unable to speak for themselves. One would think that since the FLA was created, changes have been made for the better, but that would be mistaken.
The FLA has reacted to flagrant worker violations by either doing nothing, reacting slowly or releasing reports undermining worker complaints. When it comes to releasing reports on how companies have violated the rights of their workers, they simply stall. When pressure starts to rise from the outcries of the workers and unhappy consumers, the FLA stamps a folder with the word “special review” — a meaningless claim that doesn’t differ from putting scratch-and-sniff stickers on it.
It is clear that the FLA has lost sight of what it was created to be. It was supposed to be an organization that would help oppressed people to escape a system which places profit before human compassion. But what should one expect when the FLA’s board of directors is composed of Nike Inc., adidas-Group and Gildan — three corporations infamous for their use of sweatshops? Because of the corrupt nature of the FLA, several other groups have started up in hopes of accomplishing what the FLA was meant to. One such group is the Worker Rights Consortium, which actively works toward exposing companies in their use of sweatshops. They respond directly to worker complaints, and they promptly and continually release reports to universities.
With an organization such as the WRC — a clear proponent of avoiding the abuse of workers — why does our University continue to use an organization as corrupt as the FLA? We are paying the FLA to waste not only our time, but also the money of many hard-working individuals here at the University. We are a university that is proud of its diversity, and yet we continue to support greedy corporations that constantly exploit foreign workers. How does this make us look? President Richard L. McCormick is supposed to be the leader of our University and is supposed to be an example of what our University represents. Yet he continues to tolerate the FLA. Isn’t it about time that we moved to an organization such as the WRC that upholds the views of our students and faculty, the view that the lives and well-being of the workers are more important than a few dollars?
Amish Patel is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.